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Your average-day teenager goes to parties, plays sports, or gets involved in less than legal activities, but I decided to forgo these temptations in favor of videogames.
But why did I start gaming as a teenager instead of as a child, like most? I have often asked myself this question and can only hypothesize one simple solution: I was too dumb to get it as a kid. Maybe that’s too harsh or unfair to my 5-year-old self, but I just did not have the attention span to sit down and figure out puzzles and combat mechanics on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
Fast-forward six to seven years and with the release of the PlayStation 2, I had found my true passion. From the release of the Disney-inspired Kingdom Hearts to discovering traditional-style Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) with Final Fantasy X, I was totally enamored and captivated by these imaginative, magical worlds and characters.
With my brain being constantly bombarded with new gameplay concepts and environments that often simulated from real-world cultures, it was no wonder I chose to leave my provincial life in Mississippi, USA, and set off on a worldwide adventure.
Instead of discovering foreign lands through the characters in videogames, I became the protagonist on my own quest for the first time.
I moved to Spain in 2010, where I taught English for two years in both Valladolid and Madrid. I remember carrying around my Sony PSP and Nintendo DS on many excursions across the country and around Europe. Some of my favorite videogames, like Fire Emblem, depicted medieval European settings, which made traveling all the more exciting and engrossing for me.
Eventually my desire to discover more about the world led me to teach in Asia. Japan has always been a Mecca for videogame enthusiasts, since the Japanese are responsible for so many beloved gaming franchises. Think Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Resident Evil, and Dragon Quest. I know it was because of these iconic games that I began to take interest in Japanese language and culture, which in turn facilitated my move to Japan in 2015.
Eventually I figured out that I wanted to make my passion for gaming into a career in the industry, so I set off for Germany in 2017.
You may be wondering, but why Germany of all places? Sure, Germans are known for their masterful engineering of high-quality cars, but videogames?
According to Deutsche Welle, Germany is the fifth-largest market worldwide for the video-gaming industry. In Germany alone the market grew by nearly 10 percent in 2018.
Every year Gamescom is hosted in Cologne, bringing together thousands of gamers and publishers that come to showcase their latest games. It is one of the biggest videogame conventions in the world, and I had the opportunity to attend it this year in August.
I had never been so overwhelmed and at the same time completely ecstatic in all my life.
The sheer number of people at Gamescom was absolutely insane, encompassing the entire span of Cologne’s Messe. I was able to chat with representatives from Nintendo and other publishers as well as play demos of games that would not be releasing until next year or later.
The event also dwarfs Los Angeles’s own video game conference, Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), in number of visitors. In 2019, there were around 70,000 visitors at E3 and the price for public admission is $250 in comparison to over 370,000 visitors for Gamescom at just €16 a ticket.
Ok, so there are a lot of gamers in Germany but why did I select Germany over Japan or the US for a future career in videogames? It’s rather simple, actually, one word: Berlin.
I first visited Berlin in 2012 and fell in love with the city. Since then I have always been trying to make my way back for a more permanent stay. In addition to my personal interest in the city, Berlin is home to many independent developers trying to make the next Angry Birds.
According to VentureBeat, as of 2015 Berlin hosts over 200 gaming companies, out of Germany’s total of 1,400-plus. Casual game publishers like Wooga and GameDuell call Berlin home, and the gaming scenes in Hamburg and Cologne are also hotbeds for the country. Frankfurt hosts two industry-leading companies, with Nintendo of Europe and Crytek. Ubisoft BlueByte has offices in both Mainz and Düsseldorf.
As support for the industry at the federal level grows, the gaming scene in Germany is looking very bright for a gamer expat like me.
By Nick Norman
Nick Norman is a digital content creator focusing on creative and inventive ways to engage people online. He enjoys bringing text to life with a whimsical flavor sprinkled with a hint of sass. Nick has lived abroad in Spain, Japan, and now Germany. He holds an MBA from Leipzig’s own HHL Graduate School of Management. Apart from writing, Nick also takes part in CrossFit, photography, traveling whenever possible, and of course video-gaming.